No. 1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech, 8 p.m., ESPN
Line: Ohio State by 14.
Series Record: Virginia Tech leads 1-0
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Buckeyes, with 45 letter-winners and 16 starters back from last season, will be looking to avenge last season’s 35-21 home loss against the Hokies, while Virginia Tech will be trying to state its case as a program that has returned to the conversation about college football’s elite after three consecutive mediocre seasons.
KEY MATCHUP: Ezekiel Elliott vs. the Hokies’ defense. Virginia Tech’s defense is geared toward linebackers making tackles, and with Elliott among those in the early talk as a Heisman Trophy contender, the ability of the middle of the Hokies’ defense to contain him will go a long way to determining how the game goes.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Ohio State: Whether it’s T.J. Barrett or Cardale Jones, or both, that Urban Meyer chooses to put behind center, the QB will have to figure out Bud Foster’s defense better than Barrett did last season. He threw three interceptions, the last of which Donovan Riley returned 63 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
Virginia Tech: Bucky Hodges. He’s part tight end and part wide receiver, and a favorite target of quarterback Michael Brewer because he presents matchup issues no matter where he lines up. If offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler can find ways to get him loose in the secondary, and Brewer can capitalize, that will big for the Hokies.
FACTS & FIGURES: Ohio State enters the game riding a 13-game winning streak, and coach Urban Meyer is 13-0 for his career in season-openers. … The Buckeyes received all 61 first-place votes in the Top 25, making them the first unanimous preseason No. 1 in AP poll history. … Virginia Tech is starting its season against the defending national champion for the second time in three years. The Hokies lost 35-10 to Alabama to start the 2013 season. … Since 1996., Only Kansas State with 112 has more defensive and special teams touchdowns than the Hokies’ 106. Ohio State is tied for third with 92.
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